A safeword (also spelled safe word) is a word that is used in consensual adult BDSM or spanking play to signal the desire of a party (usually the bottom/spankee) to stop or pause the scene immediately. This may be because a physical or emotional problem has arisen, or because the person simply does not wish to continue.
If the partners don't like roleplaying nonconsent, everyday language (e.g. "Stop it for a moment") can be used instead of a safeword. In other cases, a 'coded' safeword is agreed on. The safeword will typically be something other than "no" or "stop" so that those and similar words can be used in the course of roleplay without halting the scene. This allows roleplaying the fantasy of nonconsensual punishment without giving up safety.
Safewords are particularly important between spanking partners who do not know each other well, but many experienced couples also use them. Although a safeword is usually thought of as a word the bottom can use if the pain becomes too much for him or her, in practice it is also often used in cases of:
- physical problems other than pain from the spanking, e.g. a breathing problem
- emotional problems
- awareness of an outside problem (e.g. 'did I turn off the stove?')
Slowwords and safewords
A slowword is similar to a safeword, but means "slow down, reduce the intensity, but don't stop completely". A common pattern is the use of "green" for 'that is good, continue', "yellow" for 'slow down, my limits are being approached', and "red" for 'stop at once'.
List of some common safewords:
- red light
- mercy (often used by BDSM actors and other professionals)
- banana (can be heard even if the submissive is gagged)
A common default is that in the absence of another agreement the safeword is simply "safeword". In spanking video production, a common safeword is cut.
In some cases, the submissive or bottom can't say the safeword because of a gag or being in a deeply emotional state that makes it difficult to speak. For such cases, nonverbal safewords can be used, for example:
- The bottom can alert the top by squeezing a squeaky toy or using some other noise-making device.
- The submissive may hold a ball, keys or some other object that is dropped on the floor to indicate the need to slow down or stop.
- The partners agree on gestures such as the diver's OK sign or thumb up / thumb down.
- The "two squeezes" method: the top takes hold of some part of the bottom's body (other than the buttocks) and gives it two squeezes, meaning "Are you okay?" The bottom gives some part of the top's bottom two squeezes back, meaning "Yes, I'm fine." If the response doesn't come, the top repeats the "question", if it still doesn't come, the scene is stopped and the partners communicate verbally.
Safewords in parties and clubs
Spanking clubs and the organizers of spanking parties often insist on safewords, and may specify a safeword to be used by everyone present at an event, so that monitors and/or bystanders need have no doubt if a safeword is being used.
The concept of a safeword is one common to the BDSM party scene, where it can be even more important, due to the use in some scenes of bondage and implements capable of causing serious injury if misused. It may be that the spanking party scene borrowed the concept from the BDSM scene.